Mihail Decean Exhumation of martyr-heroes with an excavator
Did a miracle happen?!

The place where I stopped after I went down a couple of yards was similar to the one I had just left. There was an area of four, five square yards, lower than the ground around, easily noticeable. This happens, I said to myself, when the ground thrown in a pit is not trodden; a hollow forms on top of the pit with the passage of time.

I was standing in the middle of that place, thinking that time I could not be wrong again. I asked my nephew Liviu to bring me a spade. Cousin Petrică also brought a hoe. I told them I thought the grave might be under my feet, and I asked them to remove the raspberries stems, to make digging easier.

With my foot I showed my nephew Liviu where to dig, without asking permission from Petrov. Liviu started digging and, at 8-10 inches deep, he found burned wood mixed with soil. I stopped him, called Petrov and told him that those could be the residues of the roof of the food facility, but he said it was burned wood left by people “who had come in the forest to have a picnic and used it to make a fire.” I learned something new: nobody can be stopped to go for a picnic in the mountains and set a fire at an altitude of some 4,000 ft.

I asked Liviu to keep on digging and he did, as he is a devoted and responsible young man. Cousin Petru Stânea was also digging with his hoe. The pit grew deeper and deeper, until Liviu dug up some parts of vertebrae detached from the spine of a human skeleton! Petrov said they were animal bones with absolute certainty and left again. I asked Liviu to keep on digging, although I felt rebuked for not knowing the difference between human and animal vertebrae. 

Very soon, I saw Liviu lifting a human upper jaw, detached from a skull. I took it in my hand, extremely excited, and I called Petrov again. I was petrified when our Archaeologist said it was an animal jaw again! I also called Paul Scrobotă, the honest and hard-working director of the Museum of History and Natural Science in Aiud. When he saw the jaw he said in a very sure tone: “It’s human, Ghiţă!” I do not remember who spoke next (it could have been me) saying that it was partisan Maier Iosif’s jaw, because, according to the declaration of some witnesses who had seen his corpse, he had had three front teeth made of gold. Since they were missing from the jaw taken out of the pit, the conclusion was that someone had robbed the dead body!

Ghiţă agreed that the mass grave was there, in the place that I had identified, and started to reorganize the exhumation works, using proper tools for this type of archaeological diggings, after having decided not to use the excavator-bulldozer any more. Gheorghe Petrov could not and would not believe that the drawing in the CNSAS file, which he himself had attached to the press release, helped me to indentify the mass grave. He even said that the food store was not on the drawing. This infuriated Alin Stânea, who could not believe that Petrov had not noticed the food store on the drawing: “Professor Petrov, you cannot say that, let me show you the food store on the drawing”; Petrov said he did not have the drawing there, so Cosmin Budeancă opened the drawing file in his laptop and Alin and I pointed to the food store for him. It was very close, to the left and slightly up from the smaller cottage.

I cannot say a miracle happened. People cannot control miracles. But that lucky day, August 31 2015, a little after one o’clock in the afternoon, I had the most moving experience of my life, close to what I had felt on December 20, 1989, when, in a central street of Timişoara, at noon, I urged the anti-communist demonstrators to shout “Ceauşescu is a criminal”. I was overwhelmed with unique and miraculous sensations then, during the December 1989 Romanian anti-communist Revolution, when the people in Timişoara kept the flame lit for a week, until people all over the country joined them. Now again, I was emotionally overwhelmed at the exhumation of several anti-communist fighters, the five martyr heroes, my cousin Petru Decean among them. I am so proud of him.

Back then, I got so excited while shouting that slogan, that I felt as if my trembling flesh was being detached from my body painlessly, like in a dream of an accepted and ignored fear. Now, having discovered the hidden mass grave of the five partisan martyr heroes, the same intense emotion overcame me, like in a dream of despair and triumph.

I sat down in the shade of the small fir trees, on the ruins of the “casemate”. I needed to feel relieved of my psychic burden, but my whole body kept shaking and my eyes were filled with tears. I do not know whether anyone saw me in that state. Everyone there was shocked with the discovery of the mass grave. After a few minutes, I came to my senses and stood up. I felt a little bit dizzy, but the dizziness passed after I had climbed the slope back to where Mărioara was. I told her that I had found the mass grave and I had taken out of it some vertebrae and Maier’s upper jaw, found by Liviu while digging with his spade. She looked at me in astonishment, without saying a word. I offered her my arm and we came down the mountain to the mass grave. I showed her what we had just discovered.

What we both felt was so strong that I cannot remember what she said when she saw the jaw detached from the skull and the crushed cervical vertebrae. Tears were running down her cheeks in silence. Even now, while writing, my eyes are filled with tears. I had the same intense emotion when, alone and with my eyes closed, I imagined the mass grave and myself holding the bones of a martyr hero...